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Spotlight: Roy Abacan

Spotlight: Roy Abacan

Mark Calcagno, staff writer

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ROY ABACAN
Moving from a Big Four accounting firm to motorsports isn’t a common career change. But with passion for the NHRA brand and a desire to make an impact, that’s what Roy Abacan did this spring. Abacan spoke recently with staff writer Mark Calcagno.

■ Age: 40
New title: Vice president and chief financial officer, National Hot Rod Association
Previous title: Senior manager and associate director, EY (formerly Ernst & Young)
First job: Clerk, Toys R Us
College education: B.A. in economics/business, UCLA, 1991
Resides: Long Beach, Calif.
Grew up: Cerritos, Calif.
Executive most admired: Jack Ma, Alibaba Group
■ Brand most admired: Disney
Favorite vacation spot: Anywhere relaxing with family
Last book read: “The 22 Immutable Laws of Branding”
Last movie seen: “Guardians of the Galaxy”
Favorite movie: “Gladiator”
Favorite musician: Brad Paisley


You worked for E&Y for 10 years and then moved to the National Hot Rod Association. What prompted that and what was that decision like?
Ever since I was younger, I’ve wanted to be part of a management team — whether it be a CFO, CEO — to help lead and build an entity and leave a legacy out there. It’s different being a corporate adviser versus actually being a corporate leader.

What’s the biggest challenge in your new position?
Given that NHRA is a 60-year-old entity, it already has a brand. However, we’re always trying to do things to enhance that brand. We want to be top-of-mind in order to differentiate the NHRA, whether it be making the fan experience more engaging or making content stronger.

Biggest risk you’ve taken in your career?
That’s probably when I was younger in my career. I was at a well-established 100-year-old company but was given the opportunity to join an entrepreneurial company and take on a big leadership role — which coincided with my son being born. It was a high risk personally and professionally, but I’m glad I took that jump because it helped expand my skill set.

What is the one element you’d like to address in the sports industry?
People have many choices to spend hard-earned money, and the ability to differentiate and make our brand top-of-mind is key. The ability to deliver a sport using technology and media to enhance the fan base is what we’re focusing on.


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